California Employers May Be Barred from Requiring Disclosure of Social Media Passwords
Last week, we posted about the recent uproar over employers and colleges seeking to require applicants to surrender their Facebook passwords as a condition of hiring/admission and how that practice may be analyzed by the courts under an invasion of privacy challenge.
California employers should also note that the California legislature has proposed a bill that would specifically outlaw the practice. AB 1844, proposed by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D), if enacted as currently drafted:
(a) would prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose a user name or account password to access social media used by the employee or prospective employee; and
(b) would also provide that an employer does not fail to exercise reasonable care to discover whether a potential employee is unfit or incompetent by the employer’s failure to search or monitor social media, as defined, before hiring the employee.
The bill would add sections 980-982 to the California Labor Code to read as follows:
980. As used in this chapter, "social media" means an electronic medium where users may create and view user-generated content, including uploading or downloading videos or still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, or instant messages.
981. For purposes of a claim of negligent hiring, an employer does not fail to exercise reasonable care to discover whether a potential employee is unfit or incompetent by the employer's failure to search or monitor social media before hiring the employee.
982. An employer shall not require an employee or prospective employee to disclose a user name or account password to access social media used by the employee or prospective employee.
This bill is a mixed bag, as currently drafted. Proposed section 982 of the Labor Code would make it impossible for those California employers who wish to require applicants to surrender their Facebook and other social media passwords to engage in this conduct. Certain employers would see this as an unfair restriction. However, proposed section 981 of the Labor Code would protect California employers from negligent hiring lawsuits that are based on an employer's failure to search or monitor an applicant's social media profile and this would likely be seen as a positive piece of legislation by many California employers.
AB 1844 was referred to the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment on March 5. We would not be surprised if this bill gained some traction as it may end up getting support from both employers and employees. We will continue to keep you updated on this and other important California legislative developments.